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Hunger Paperback – 1 Nov 2003

3.7 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 136 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications Inc. (1 Nov. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486431681
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486431680
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 13.3 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 487,259 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

About the Author

Knut Hamsun, born in Norway in 1859, was a novelist, poet, and dramatist who received the Nobel Prize in 1920. Many believe the modern novel was born with the 1890 publication of Hamsun's masterwork HUNGER. Some of the world's most celebrated authors, including Ernest Hemingway and Franz Kafka, have cited Hamsun as a major influence. He passed away in 1952 at age 92. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This compelling novel will strike a chord with anyone who, for whatever reason or turn of circumstance, has found themselves completely isolated in life, knowing no one at all, suffering extremes of loneliness, virtually bereft of human interaction and discourse - stranded helplessly among people like a ghost doomed to wander in a phantom zone. Written in 1890, Knut Hamsun's novel Hunger is a disturbing journey into the mind and soul of a young writer. With no plot or characters (other than the young writer narrator) to speak of, the novel, written in the form of an interior monologue, recounts each moment-by-moment thought or impulse running through the young writer's mind. The reader observes in the interior monologue, the steady deterioration of the young writer's mental state as his thoughts swing erratically between extremes of elation and despair.
For the nameless young writer, clothes falling apart, existing precariously on the brink of starving to death, evicted from his room when rental payments lapsed, not knowing where his next mouthful of food will come from, pawning the vest off his back (but making rash, extravagant handouts as soon as he comes into any money), each day represents a vast desert of dead and empty time in which he wanders, lost, blown about the streets of the city like a paper in the wind, dogged by unremitting hunger - with brief periods of respite when his starvation is temporarily quelled with what little money he makes flogging the odd article to a local newspaper. In his drastically weakened state, on the verge of physical collapse, unable to eat without throwing up, only able to write in patches, the young writer begins to lose his reason, his irrational state of mind marked by wild impulses and violent mood swings as he slips into paranoia and despair.
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Format: Paperback
There seem to be two themes to reviews of this book, one about the book itself, one about translation. I have recently chosen this for the book club I belong to, and we discussed it two days ago. There were two different translations used, so I'll comment first on the translations. There are three available - George Egerton, the earliest (1899), which is this one with the woodcut (also another cover with a winter landscale). It was rather stiff and formal, which doesn't sit very well with stream-of-consciousness, and my copy was riddled with misprints which at times made the text incomprehensible. The other translation, by a Scandinavian woman, is the most recent, and has a very comprehensive note at the end on the problems of translating the book, which is mainly a hatchet job devoted to demolishing the third translation, by Robert Bly. We compared passages in the two versions we had, and the general agreement was that the 2013 Canongate edition with a foreword by Paul Auster was superior.

Hamsun in general, and 'Hunger' in particular, has a huge reputation in Europe, and both are virtually unknown in this country. The reason is because of Hamsun's later history, in that he became an ardent Nazi, a supporter of the Quisling government, and, worse, unregenerate after Hitler was defeated. The only reason he was not put on trial was because of his extreme age (85+).

'Hunger', written 50 years prior to this, shows no sign at all of proto-fascist sympathies,and in the almost unanimous (6 out of 7) view of my club was an authentic masterpiece of world literature. It conjures echoes of other literature, especially Russian, and in particular Gogal and Dostoevsky haunt its pages. What makes it unique, though, is its stream-of-consciousness writing.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Just finished this and boy has it made an impact! We all feel down and depressed some times but on reading this I realised just how awful life can really be to some. It has made me even more depressed. I can identify with this guy in that pride can be our biggest enemy sometimes. But, the rebuke we can feel when we do let down our guard is even more hurtful to us sensitive souls. This guy was sensitive and yet his anger built up gradually and was expressed in strange ways sometimes. I felt so sad for him - especially the experience he had with the woman. However, he was also incredibly stupid and arrogant in some respects. The way he expected the woman to just give herself to him was rather strange. He obviously was mentally disturbed because of his experiences but he wasnt insane. I cant get him out of my mind. I wish I had been there and met him and could talk to him. He so needed a friend! Yes, I can identify and sympathise with him and know that life can be lonely when the chips are down and you dont want to expose your vulnerability. He felt shame and yet being impoverished was not entirely his fault. The real fly in the ointment about reading this book is that when I looked up some information about Hamsun it turns out he is a convicted Nazi! How can that be? How can someone with so much soul be connected with such evil? Now I have the dilemma of whether I read more of him or abandon him on account of his unrepented beliefs.
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Hamsun must be turning in his grave. But then apparently he never liked the English. As James Wood writes in LRB: His Nazism was (...) based more on his irrational hatred of England than on any natural Fascism; he and his wife (...) wanted Germany to ‘bring England to its knees’, as he madly implored in one wartime newspaper article.
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